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Tips & Tricks

Conquering Crappy Light With Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind

By Topher Kelly on September 15th 2013

Photographers want nothing more than to shoot under perfect circumstances, but if you’re like me, chances you somehow find yourself snapping portraits in terrible (read: completely crappy) mixed light far too often. In this article, professional photographers Erik Valind and Lindsay Adler share step-by-step tips on how to troubleshoot the less-than-ideal combination of natural daylight and tungsten with a few simple tricks and key pieces of equipment.

Step One: Neutralize The Light

Try neutralizing the bright daylight and the warm tungsten by using an expodisc to get a custom white balance. Just hold it over your camera and take a picture from the perspective of your model –– shooting away from the model and into the light. Unfortunately, one side of your model’s face will likely be too warm, the other side will be too cool, and the middle will be perfectly balanced. Time to start picking and choosing your battles!

[Rewind: Introduction to White Balance]

Example for Step One After Using Expo Dish

Step Two: Embrace One Light or the Other

Turn your model directly toward either the daylight or tungsten light and snap a picture (again, using your expodisc to get a custom white balance). Chances are you’ll have great skin tone on your model when she’s facing the daylight –– but what if this isn’t an option during your actual shoot?

Step 2 Fully Facing the Daylight

Step Three: Take Control of the Environment

Still not happy with your pictures? Determine which light source you can shut down. The obvious choice is turning off the tungsten and relying on that beautiful daylight, but that may be tricky if you’re shooting an event. If you have no choice but to work with the tungsten light, try closing the blinds or blocking the window with a sheet. You’ll end up with great skin tone once you eliminate the conflicting daylight –– now it’s just a matter of quality control and managing the direction of your light.

Step 3 - after shutting out the daylight

Step Four: Break Out Your Flash

Using a flash bender (with diffusion material over the front) creates a soft box effect, and will help fill in some of the shadows created by overhead tungsten lights. Play around with your flash and camera, using manual settings to dial in and get your exposure. The result? A much more flattering light on your subject! However, the color temperature may still be off, which is where your handy Rogue Gel comes in.

Step 4 - breaking out your flash

5. Warm Up Your Flash

You’ve shifted your white balance to make the colors look warmer, but in doing so you’ve cooled off the flash. Luckily, you can easily warm up your colors using a thick Rogue Gel. The result? You’ll get great color and light direction on your subject, and in the room. Which means you just took crappy split lighting and managed to tame the entire environment –– with a beautiful shaping light on your model’s face, to boot! All you needed was a speedlight and a white balance adjustment. Pretty simple, right?

For more lighting tips, be sure to check out Lindsay’s live presentation during creativeLIVE Photo Week Sept. 16-21. Plus, Lindsay will team up with fine art photographer Brooke Shaden for an additional 90-minute segment.

Step 5 -The Final Result

BEFORE AND AFTER

Before and After shot. (all photos are screen shots from Lindsay’s cL Course

About

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive – an online education platform dedicated to providing free interactive photography, business and design courses taught by some of the world’s best instructors.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    This was a great course.

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  2. Kurk Rouse

    Interesting tips

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  3. Dan Oksnevad

    Great tips! I am a wedding photographer and the hardest part of my day is shooting indoor scenes with varying light conditions. I’ve never heard of the Rogue Gel before… I may have to look into that. Thanks!

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